“SCCA Solo Nationals: A Novice’s Perspective” Experienced and written by Jodie Boy
As the title suggests, I am still fairly new to the world of SCCA motorsports. My adventure into driving began back in June of 2019 thanks to my father, Bill Boy, who fostered my racing interest and a friendly colleague, Jason Gast, who playfully pestered me into attending the novice school his region, Indiana Northwest Region, was hosting. My weekend was spent speeding around a parking lot and picking up cones during course work. When I returned the next weekend for a live event for another region, Jason nodded knowingly saying, “New drivers either never show up again, or they’re hooked. And here you are.”
There I was indeed! Fast forward through events nearly every weekend in 2019, driving two hours or more nearly every weekend the next year in 2020 to find events, a 2nd in Ladies PAX and 1st Novice for South Bend Region, a new-to-me Miata, a co-driver in Nick Zelisko, a few ProSolos (with a perfect 500 start at Toledo ‘21, I must add; just ignore my overall time), and too many Champ Tours to count, Nick convinced me it was time for Lincoln.
I had heard tales of SCCA Solo Nationals; drivers everywhere speak of their experience at the event. David Finchum was as big of a supporter as Nick was of my attending because I was admittedly worried that I didn’t belong there yet. However, Finch and Nick both tirelessly reassured me that there is always a great group to race with, and they both said the same statement about the event: there is nothing else like it. There was also nothing like an eight hour drive in a ‘99 Miata with a bent gas pedal, no power steering, no cruise control, no AC, a soft top so loud you could not hear the CD player or hold a conversation, and a floor that heats up to lava status. That aside, I would make that drive again in a heartbeat for the event to come.
There is nothing else like it. Nothing else is Solo Nationals. The level of competition alone is the fiercest I would see that year. E Street alone had fifty-four entrants (I was a happy, hard earned fifty-third) where the time difference from the top of the podium to the bottom of the trophies was just over two seconds. However, when people say “there is nothing else like it” the level of competition is only part of it.
The true feeling of Solo Nats is the spirit of the competitors and the site itself. Despite the tight competition in E Street, as was many of the classes, there was never a sense that I, a newb of newbs, did not belong there. Everyone was as friendly and as helpful as they would be at a Test’n’Tune. Whether it was friendly banter in grid, teasing jokes in paddock, or Heidi making sure I got registered for Driving Forward Together to represent the ladies, everyone was positively delightful. As for the site, there is nothing quite like walking lap after lap of course to the evening sounds of parties, karaoke, and scavenger hunts in grid. People were as serious about having fun and enjoying the company of their fellow drivers as they were the competition itself.
The other “Nationals experience” of having fix a broken car, that Nick always joked about as a staple of his past experiences, we blissfully believed we were immune to. While Nick’s past was full of mechanical issues leading to long hours “wrenching” on the car in paddock or scrambling for a co-drive, surely we would be safe in an ES Miata, right? Of course not. 2021 Solo Nats wanted me to get the FULL experience which included our clutch busting on the last run of our first competition day, Mike White thankfully loaning his truck so Teresa White and I
could drive all over town finding parts and tools, and coming back to Nick under the car for what ended up being a six hour oreal.
Despite that, even as the sun set, the spirit of Nationals was present. The ES gang came over to humorously harass Nick and each other while getting on the ground to help put the new clutch in. Some friendly folk a few paddock spots down felt sorry for our plight, and after having watched Nick toil on the ground all those hours, brought us the absolute best chicken I have ever tasted. Support came from everywhere.
For our final day and our final runs, Nick was on a hunt for a trophy spot with the new clutch and hanging on for the last trophy spot from the previous day. In spite of the long hours he put in the previous night, the sweltering heat of the day, and a timing scare, Nick not only earned a trophy but moved up in the placings! Watching the friends we had built along the way this year in our ES gang applaud as Nick accepted his hard earned trophy was the perfect ending to my first trip of many to Solo Nats. Well, the trophy and the return eight hours of white noise, but regardless, I knew the moment our times were finalized that people either never show up again or they’re hooked. See you next year, Lincoln. There is nothing else like it.